The Secret World Of Polly Flint – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

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Are you looking for an entertaining way to teach your students about self-discovery and nonviolent conflict resolution? The Secret World of Polly Flint by Helen Cresswell is a beloved classic novel that guides readers to understand the power of inner strength.

Using reading strategies, thoughtful discussion prompts, and fun activities, this book provides an engaging atmosphere for students as they explore how Polly’s adventure can apply real-world ethical principles in their own lives.

In this blog post overview, we’ll cover everything you need to know before introducing your class to the magical world of Polly Flint!

Related: For more, check out our Planning Overview of The Journey by Francesca Sanna  here.

planning a writing unit

The Secret World Of Polly Flint Storyline

Polly was an imaginative only child with a father who worked in the coal mines and understood her penchant for embracing the magical aspects of life. He often played rhyming games with her and always seemed to understand the importance of having daydreams and flights of fancy. While Polly’s mother was a devoted parent, she was more practical-minded than Polly’s father.

As long as life stayed within reasonable bounds, the family found contentment until disaster struck one fateful day when her dad suffered an accident at work, leaving him unable to walk. This meant that the family had to move in with Polly’s aunt, who was quite strict and rigidly set in her ways – not precisely suitable living conditions for a creative mind like Polly’s.

The one silver lining to this situation was their new home being close to an extensive parkland with a picturesque lake. During their explorations of the area, Polly stumbled upon stories of an ancient village nearby that had been submerged beneath the waves centuries ago and forgotten by time – it soon became apparent that these tales were true as every Sunday, she could make out church bells ringing from below.

Eventually, during her wanderings, Polly gained access to this lost settlement thanks to its eccentric residents calling themselves “Time Gypsies”. They comprised an older woman, a man, a baby and what seemed like another young girl about Polly’s same age (although this girl was hundreds of years more senior).

The villagers from outside at regular times could come up from their secret sanctuary but struggled to return owing to some mysterious malfunction, so they sought help from Polly. She agreed on one condition: they must ensure she wouldn’t become trapped in the timeless realm too!

Key Themes in The Secret World Of Polly Flint

Imagination and Magic

Polly is a young girl with a very creative imagination and an understanding of the magical elements in life, encouraged by her father, who often plays rhyming games with her.

Through her time exploring the nearby parkland, she discovers stories of an ancient lost village hidden beneath the water – the truth of these tales is made clear as Polly hears church bells coming from this submerged settlement each Sunday.

Eventually, she meets a group of eccentric ‘Time Gypsies’ who turn out to be centuries old and become embroiled in their quest to return home safely.

Challenges and Family dynamics

Polly’s life as she knows it is challenged when her father suffers an accident at work which leaves him unable to walk. This means that the family must move in with Polly’s strict aunt, which further complicates her creative mind.

Despite this, Polly’s family still supports one another even during difficult times – her father encourages her flights of fancy while her mother remains devotedly caring – providing a solid foundation for the conflicts that arise later in the story.

Time Travel and Fairytales

The main focus of Flat Stanley revolves around themes associated with time travel, mystery and fairytales. Through exploration of real-world locations and secret realms outside typical timeframes, Polly must use logic and intuition to help guide those trapped outside their timeline back home without getting stuck herself.

Alongside this puzzle, there are also moments where familiar fairytale moments, such as talking animals, come into play, creating an enchanting adventure story mixed with sci-fi elements.

Key Characters in The Secret World Of Polly Flint


The story’s protagonist and main viewpoint character, Polly, is an imaginative only child whose father is a coal miner. He encourages her sense of magic in the world by playing rhyming games with her and having a keen awareness of the importance of being able to think freely.

When disaster strikes, she lives with her aunt, who poses many challenges to Polly’s creative mind. Through exploring the nearby parkland, she meets a group of eccentric ‘Time Gypsies’ with whom she must help get back to their own home and time without getting stuck there herself.

Polly’s Father

Polly’s father works as a coal miner providing for his family as best he can. Despite this demanding job, he has excellent insight into his daughter’s imaginative nature and encourages her flights of fantasy. His conviction in this aspect brings balance to an otherwise practical household until disaster strikes leaving him unable to walk while still having to provide for his family.

Aunt Gertrude

Polly’s father’s sister takes them in after his accident at work results in him being unable to walk anymore. While Aunt Gertrude proves to be a welcome refuge for a time, it quickly becomes apparent that she is very set in her ways – rigidly so – making a living with her rather suffocating on more than one level for young Polly and proving one of the key obstacles standing in the way of achieving her goals throughout the story.

Teaching Opportunities with The Secret World Of Polly Flint

  • Exploring and understanding different perspectives of family dynamics and how values like creativity can help maintain a sense of well-being during difficult times.
  • Investigating the science of time travel and how fantasy elements are blended into stories to engage readers and bring these concepts to life.
  • Examining how fairytales might be used to explore moral or ethical issues or looking into the historical context of traditional tales to see how they may have evolved.
  • Understanding the importance of thinking outside the box in finding creative solutions while sometimes needing less inventive approaches when faced with real-world problems.
  • Appreciating how relationships can be built across generations or cultures, despite sometimes having preconceived notions about those different from ourselves.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1 – Exploring Perspectives of Family Dynamics


Understanding how values like creativity can help maintain a sense of well-being during difficult times.


In this lesson plan, we will explore the themes around family dynamics as expressed in the book The Secret World Of Polly Flint by Lee Weatherly. We will use the story to think about different perspectives and values that come into play when families face challenging situations.

Main Teaching Points:

  • Introduce the premise of the story by briefly summarizing it and discussing how it relates to our own lives
  • Discuss what family dynamics are and why having different perspectives is essential for wellbeing
  • Use examples from the story to explore how Polly’s relationship with her father, aunt and the Time Gypsies exemplify these values.
  • Ask students to think about their own experiences by responding to questions such as “What role does creativity play in your life when facing challenges?” and “How do relationships with our relatives influence us?”


Encourage students to use journaling or creative writing activities to process their feelings on these topics and reflect on how they might apply these lessons in real-life scenarios.

Key Questions:

  • What can we learn from Polly about facing challenges with creativity?
  • How does Polly’s relationship with her father show his commitment to her imaginative nature?
  • What other values do you see throughout the story contribute to maintaining well-being during challenging times?

Lesson Plan 2 – Investigating the Science of Time Travel


Examining how fantasy elements are blended into stories, including time travel, but also looking into the historical context of traditional tales and how they may have evolved.


In this lesson plan, we will explore themes around time travel and fantasy as expressed in The Secret World Of Polly Flint by Lee Weatherly. We will dive into both scientific aspects and examine their relation within fairytale traditions through discussion, research and creative activities.

Main Teaching Points:

  • Introduce critical concepts related science of time travel, such as relativity theory or wormholes, using plain language explanations or related visuals; encourage open dialogue between students’ opinions on whether time travel is possible or science fiction.
  • Discuss essential elements of familiar fairytales like moral messages, magical creatures, etc., then examine them using examples from the book such as Polly’s ability to talk with animals, her adventures with a group called ‘Time Gypsies’ travelling through portals across different eras etc.
  • Connect back to the topic of the main story at hand; consider why the author chose to blend science fiction and fairy tales; ask students if they could brainstorm the same type of combination for their own stories/characters (what would be the subject matter?)


Have students write a brief reflection essay about what they learned (e.g., connections between fairy tales & science fiction) or draw/paint their impressions about their journey through areas explored today (e.g., representation of a fantastic trip through painting).

Key Questions:

  • Do you think that Time Travel exists in reality? Why or why not?
  • How could we explain Time Travel using scientific terms that are easier for people outside this subject area to understand?
  • What elements make up a traditional fairytale? How did The Secret World Of Polly Flint twist those elements it’s the way?

Books with Similar Themes as “The Secret World Of Polly Flint”

  • Into the Land of the Unicorns (Bruce Coville)
  • Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
  • Time Stops for No Mouse (Michael Hoeye)
  • The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)
  • A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
  • Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
  • Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Website Resources

The Alec Reed Academy  is the perfect place to give your child the education they deserve. Here, students get a well-rounded curriculum from Primary to Secondary school, with plenty of opportunities for extracurricular activities and knowledge sharing.

The Secret World of Polly Flint by Helen Cresswell is an enthralling children’s book about a young girl who discovers she can travel through time and space using her dreams as fuel! The whimsical adventure takes readers on a journey filled with magic and friendship as Polly seeks out new ways to help those around her in need.

The Secret World of Polly Flint by Helen Cresswell is an enchanting story about a young girl who discovers she can travel through time and space using her dreams as fuel! With her newfound responsibility, Polly embarks on exciting adventures, searching for answers to life’s big mysteries while meeting beautiful characters along the way!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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